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Cold-smoked cheese

by Karen Burns-Booth
Cold-smoked cheese

Cold-smoked cheese

PT1H

Why not try?

I’ve been delving into the idea of smoking my food lately, it’s an area of food preparation that I have always been fascinated with. I’ve hot smoked fish before, it’s fairly easy to smoke fish on top of a hob, in a wok or a biscuit tin, and the results are very professional. I’ll be showing you how to hot smoke fish in another blog post, but for now, it’s cheese I want to concentrate on, which is slightly tricky to smoke as it must be cold smoked to avoid the cheese from melting.

Most people will know or have tasted smoked cheese – the most popular used to be the cylindrical smoked cheeses from Austria, wrapped in a brown plastic casing. There’s also a home-grown British smoked cheese too, Applewood; Applewood is a traditional farmhouse Cheddar from Ilchester; it also goes by the name of Applewood smoked cheddar, when smoked of course. This dense semi-hard cheese was first invented in 1965 in Somerset, England.

Firstly, you have to select your cheese; most hard cheeses such as Cheddar, Red Leicester and Double Gloucester work well, as well as crumbly cheese such as Wensleydale, Cheshire and Lancashire. Soft cheeses don’t work well, and cheeses such as Stilton and Danish Blue are not suitable at all, and, I did read that Camembert and Brie don’t smoke well, but I managed to smoke a whole Camembert in its box and the results were fantastic.

This is a VERY simple way to smoke cheese in your own home, and all you will need in the way of equipment is:

Large biscuit tin or tin box with a lid Wire rack or chicken wire Barbeque with a lid Sawdust Appropriate aromatics (see method in recipe below)

I smoked my cheese, a Cantal (French hard cheese) in the garage as not to smoke the whole house out! It was smoked to the level that we wanted in under an hour and the results were fabulous – we were rewarded with a subtle herb scented cheese with a mild smoky taste; we were so taken with the results that we immediately slapped another slab of cheese in the biscuit tin and then experimented with the boxed Camembert!

If you follow the method below exactly, you will also be rewarded with a beautifully smoked cheese along with any extra flavouring you fancy – we used Herbes de Provence for both cheeses, but I’ll list some alternative ideas below. One word of warning, do NOT place the cheese over flames or bright red embers, it needs to be placed over “smoking” sawdust that has no flames and that has NOT exceeded the temperature of 15°C. If it’s any hotter you will end up with a molten mass of sawdust coated cheese!

We used ours as a pizza toping, as you can see from the photos, but it’s great as part of a cheeseboard, in salads, for gratins, omelettes and on toast.

1
Pierce some holes in the lid of the tin
2
Line the base of the tin with sawdust and your chosen flavourings
3
Cover the sawdust with a wire rack or chicken wire to fit, making sure there is enough space between the sawdust and the wire, about 5cms (2”) at least – the cheese should not come into direct contact with the hot sawdust or be too close
4
Light the sawdust, you may have to add a few small twigs to get it going, and allow it to smoulder with no flames before placing the cheese on the rack. The cheese must NOT be any thicker than 7.5cms (1 ½”) at its widest point, and smaller pieces are better to smoke than larger chunks
The cheese must not be any thicker than 7.5cms
5
You can either put the lid on the box now, or sit the box in a barbeque and close the lid, as I did in the photos. Either way, the smoker (box) needs to be in a garage or outside shed (or outdoors) as the smoke will fill the house
6
Smoke the cheese for between 30 minutes and 1 hour, checking regularly to make sure the fuel is not burning too hot and that the cheese is not melting. If the fuel is too hot, take the cheese off the rack and allow the fuel to reduce in heat before replacing it back on the rack in the tin
7
When the cheese is smoked to your taste, carefully remove the tin with oven gloves, and then ease the cheese off the rack with a spatula – it may be rubbery and bend, so be careful. Allow it to come to room temperature and firm up before wrapping in tinfoil and storing in the fridge
8
To serve, take the cheese out at least one hour before serving and unwrap it
Take the cheese out at least one hour before serving
 

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